Emily O'Brien

Associate Professor
Office: AQ 6240
Telephone: 778-782-3150
Email: eobrien@sfu.ca



Summer 2024

Future courses may be subject to change.


I came to SFU in the fall of 2005 as a lifelong easterner. I grew up in Toronto, did my B.A. at the University of Toronto and then headed south to Brown University in Rhode Island for my graduate work. My research interests in Renaissance Italy took me still further east to Rome and Florence, where I spent almost three years. While finishing my thesis, I taught for several years in Harvard's Expository Writing Program. I received my Ph.D. in History in the spring of 2005.

Research Interests

Though Canadian born, I consider Italy to be my true intellectual home. My central field of research is the Italian Renaissance, and my particular focus is fifteenth-century humanism, politics and the papacy. My work so far has centred on the writings of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II, 1458-64). I recently published a book on his autobiographical account of his pontificate, and I am currently working on a Latin-English edition of his (and other humanists') novelle. While continuing to study Piccolomini’s writings, my current projects also include the Renaissance reception of Cicero and the politics of Neo-Latin historical epic.


The Two Lovers: The Goodly History of Lady Lucrece and Her Lover Eurialus. Ottawa: Dovehouse Editions, 1999. Edited with Kenneth Bartlett.

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

  • “Letters of Alliance and an Alliance of Letters: Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, Juan de Carvajal and the Conciliar Crisis.” Renaissance and Reformation 42, no. 3 (2019): 73-103.
  • “Piccolomini, Enea Silvio,” in The Oxford Guide to the HistoricalReception of Augustine. Oxford University Press, 2013
  • “Arms and Letters: Julius Caesar, the Commentaries of Pope Pius II, and the Politicization of Papal Imagery.” Renaissance Quarterly 62 (2009): 1057-1097.
  •  “Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini’s Chrysis: Prurient Pastime or Something More?” Modern Language Notes 124 (2009): 111-136.
  •  “The Politics of Painting: Cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, Pope Pius II, and the Frescoes of the Piccolomini Library.” In From Florence to the Mediterranean and Beyond: Essays in Honor of Anthony Molho, edited by Diogo Ramada Curto, Eric R. Dursteler, Julius Kirshner, and Francesca Trivellato. Florence: Olschki, 2009, 1: 427-444.
  • “The Conciliar Histories of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini.” In Councils and Reform: a Fifteenth-Century Legacy Revisited, edited by Gerald Christianson, Thomas M. Izbicki, and Christopher Bellitto. Washington D.C.: Catholic University Press, 2008, 60-81.

Works in Progress

  • Poggio Bracciolini, Facetiae. Renaissance and Reformation Texts in Translation (projected publication: 2021). Co-translated with Steven Killings.

Selected Academic Conference Papers

  • "Ladislaus Posthumous in the Writings of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini.” Delivered at the Renaissance Society of America annual virtual conference, April 2021.
  • “Defending the Res Publica Christiana in the Fifteenth Century: Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, Cicero and the Crusades.” Delivered at the Renaissance Society of America annual conference, Toronto; March 2019.
  • “Private Property, Civic Humanism, and Cicero’s De officiis.” Delivered at the Renaissance Society of America annual conference, New Orleans; March 2017.
  • “The Politics of Memory: The Malatesta Family in the Commentarii of Pope Pius II.” Delivered at the New College Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Sarasota; March 2017.
  • “Reading and Rewriting Cicero: Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini and Cicero’s De Officiis.” Delivered at the Renaissance Society of America annual conference, Boston; March 2016.
  • “Braccio da Montone in De Vita et Gestis Bracii by Giannantonio Campano.” Delivered at the Renaissance Society of America annual conference,New York; March 2014.
  • “The Epaenetica of Pope Pius II.” Delivered at the Renaissance Society of America annual conference, San Diego; April 2013.

Areas of Graduate Supervision

Late Medieval and Renaissance Italy – intellectual, Church, political history

Teaching Interests

Late Medieval and Renaissance Europe; Medieval and Renaissance Italy; the history of historical writing; the city of Rome, antiquity to the present day


  • Small SSHRC Research Grant, 2016
  • Small SSHRC Research Grant, 2009
  • Best Unpublished Manuscript Prize, Society for Italian Historical Studies, 2006
  • Simon Fraser University President’s Research Grant, 2005
  • Simon Fraser University Endowed Research Fellowship, 2005
  • Graduate awards: SSHRC doctoral fellowship; Fulbright Fellowship to Italy; Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities, 1991-93           

News about Emily O'Brien